Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a vaginal infection that is not a sexually transmitted disease. It is caused by an overgrowth in the bacteria that naturally live in the vagina after the normal, ecological balance of the vagina has been disrupted.
The disruption of the PH can allow the dominant bacteria to multiply. There is a higher likelihood of you getting BV if you are in one of these groups:
• Using antibiotics
• Vaginal douching – this washes away protective acid mucus in the vagina, leaving bacteria free to multiply
• Having multiple sex partners (although it is not sexually transmitted and can be contracted in women who have never had sex)
• Women who have a female sex partner
• Being anemic or sub-clinically anemic during pregnancy
Many women with bacterial vaginosis (BV) don’t have any symptoms. Others produce an excess of vaginal discharge, grayish or off-white in color that has a foul odor that smells like fish.
Some cases of BV are discovered accidently when they have a swab for another reason. It can also be diagnosed simply by telling your doctor your symptoms (if you are in a steady relationship with just one person he may be happy to diagnose based on symptoms).
He can also confirm this by taking a swab (BV can be seen under the microscope) and testing the PH of your vagina, which is higher in women with BV. If you are in a relationship with more than one person, the swabs will be needed to rule out any sexually transmitted diseases.
You may not need treatment if your symptoms are mild as many cases of BV do get better without treatment. However, based on your symptoms a doctor will decide whether you need antibiotics especially if you or your partner are bothered by the odor. If you think you may have a sexually transmitted infection, you should seek medical advice.
If you are pregnant, you should also have treatment because although normally harmless, BV can cause miscarriage or trigger premature birth and it can also increase your risk of getting a uterine infection after the birth.